A uniquely local program that delivers bouquets and other treats to patients in need drew the strong support of guests attending the Dream Foundation’s Second Annual Flower Empower Luncheon held earlier this month at the Montecito home of Robin and Roger Himovitz.
More than 150 guests gathered at a benefit for this impactful volunteer-driven program honoring the 2011-2012 Flower Empower program sponsors: Ivana and Andrew Firestone, Angie Redding, and Annette and Harold Simmons.
Guests strolled along a brick walkway toward the ivy-covered front entrance of the historic George Washington Smith estate and were welcomed with bright smiles at a host table adorned with a tall, beautiful white orchid.
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The generosity of the homeowners, supporters and volunteers was only part of what enlightened this special day for this extraordinary community-based program.
“This is a service that is managed, maintained and expanding because of the generous hearts of countless volunteers and supporters,” said Alan Rose, the event’s emcee and KEYT chief meterologist. “It’s a beautiful group effort. We thank you for being involved and for being with us today.”
Since 1994, a group of volunteers has gathered each Saturday at the downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market, 232 Anacapa St., to skillfully prepare an average of 75 to 100 bouquets using donated flowers from local growers.
The volunteers’ efforts have resulted in more than 25,000 flower deliveries that have brightened the spirits of many people in need of empathy and hope.
“Volunteers and in-kind donors have allowed us to expand our program from 40 bouquets a week to more than 100 bouquest each week, hand-delivered to hospital, hospices, senior centers, cancer centers and residences,” said Dream Foundation Flower Empower coordinator Valerie Banks.
Referrals for recipients of the program are received from a variety of sources who are on the front lines of families facing hardship, including hospice workers, nurses, and soon, according to Banks, the Santa Barbara Police Department. And, as the growth of the program expands, the need for donor support becomes even more important.
“Through generous gifts and in memoriam of our beloved supporter, Chris Edgecomb, we have been able to trade in our old ‘rust bucket’ for a new Flower Empower van, equipped to meet the new demands of our broadening service,” said Banks.
As the event progressed, guests gathered in the lush backyard around silent auction items on tables set beneath large patio columns and near an inviting pool filled with colorful, floating flower petals.
A profusion of floral pleasures and sumptuous delights drew a crowd to the Himovitzs’ home and raised $15,000 for the compassionate cause.
“Flower Empower is a program nearly entirely fueled by our dedicated volunteers and our amazing growers,” said Banks.
The backbone of support for the Flower Empower program exists because of the generosity of local businesses and their donations, including B&H Flowers, Botanik, Chocolats du CaliBressan, Domingo Farms, Ever-Bloom, Florabundance, the Himovitz family, Maximum Nursery, Myriad Flowers, Trader Joe’s, Valley Flowers Inc., Westerlay Orchids and Westland Floral.
“Thomas (Rollerson) founded this program in conjunction with Dream Foundation’s ‘Dream Program’ 18 years ago,” Rose said. “He understood the impact a simple gesture of kindness could have. Not just on a person in need but on the community that rallies together to deliver hope, support and compassion, one bouquet at a time.”
A delicious lunch of chicken, salmon or a vegetarian option satisfied the taste buds for guests seated around a grassy area adorned with fragrant bouquets atop olive and gold tablecloths. The array created a beautiful afternoon for all the senses.
The long-term hope of the Dream Foundation is that volunteers from across the country will establish similar Flower Empower programs within their own communities. For now, the program remains as special as the Santa Barbara community itself.
“Though Dream Foundation’s dream program serves that national community, the Flower Empower program remains special to Santa Barbara,” said Rose.
And, not to be lost on the special spirit of the day was the Himovitzs’ generosity in allowing guests to soak in the wonderful qualities of their historic home.
Smith was the foremost creator and proponent of the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style and fittingly was based in Montecito, where he participated in efforts during the 1920s to unify Santa Barbara’s city planning and aesthetic.
Equally important and unique to Santa Barbara and the Dream Foundation program is the support of local mainstays within the community.
“Ivana is also one of our most dedicated volunteers, serving Cottage Hospital recipients with flower deliveries,” Rose said. “I’ve seen firsthand the way the patients faces light up when Ivana walks into the room. The Firestones not only lend their financial support, more important, they lend their hearts.”
And, it’s this compassion that touches so many lives, as in the family of a former Flower Empower recipient, Derry, who passed away nearly a year ago. The Dream Foundation has not let her spirit pass and has maintained contact with her husband, Ronald.
“Ronald didn’t feel ready to come to this event today, yet he wanted to convey a message,” said Banks. “I want to tell you all that every week I purchase a bouquet of flowers for my wife, as they remind me of the light and joy that appeared on her face when she would see Carmen (a longtime Flower Empower volunteer) walk up the driveway with her delivery.”
The fortitude of this message and the thoughtfulness of the supporters meshed into a wonderful afternoon with high prospects for next year’s event and the future of the program.
“It is beautiful to witness people coming together and giving so generously and in such a variety of ways — from volunteering, to donating, to offering a resource or service — all in a collective effort to provide a simple and powerful gift of joy in a life when it’s needed the most,” said Rollerson, the Dream Foundation’s founder and president. “It humbles me just to be part of this community of caregivers.”
The Dream Foundation thanks the Second Annual Flower Empower Luncheon sponsors:
» Rose: Rudi Schulte Family Foundation, adesso, Nora Hurley-McNeely in honor of the “Fab Four” (Marla McNally Phillips, Jano Stack, Tammy Hughes and Roxanna Solakian).
» Orchid: Pattis Family Foundation, Hollye Jacobs and Kim Kieler.
» Click here for more information on the Dream Foundation, or call 805.564.2131.
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